Defender Meghan McDonald has capped off a stellar VFLW season by being added to the Geelong Cats’ inaugural AFL Women’s squad ahead of the 2019 AFLW season. She becomes Geelong’s third Falcon signing, joining her VFLW premiership teammates Melissa Hickey and Aasta O’Connor.
McDonald played in all of the Falcons’ 14 home and away matches this year, finishing the season as the Club’s leading disposal-getter with a grand total of 239 disposals – the seventh highest in the league. She was also second in the VFLW competition for total marks.
Holding down a key defensive post all season, McDonald was often the Falcons’ springboard into attack with her ability to read the play and her intercept marking a feature of her game.
Under the watchful eye of defensive line coach, Julia Chiera, McDonald’s season has gone from strength to strength.
“Meg has had an outstanding season and has been one of our leading possession getters all year, which says something as she’s often played deep in the backline. Her intercept marks and her contested marks have gone to another level this year. She’s been a difficult player for our opponents to match up against.” Chiera said.
McDonald was part of the Western Bulldogs squad for the inaugural AFLW season. Despite playing four games and displaying an ability to hold down a key position at either end of the ground, she was delisted at the end of the 2017 AFLW season.
Moving on from that disappointment, McDonald’s VFLW form in 2018 has been no accident. From the very first pre-season training session last November, she has been meticulous in her preparation.
“This year Meg has absolutely done everything that is within her control to make sure that she was prepared and at her fittest and open to learning everything she could to get back on an AFLW list.” Chiera added.
The level of commitment shown was not lost on senior coach, Jane Lange, either.
“It’s not by chance that she’s had a great season. It’s through hard work and seeking really direct and specific feedback and then going away and working on it.
I know she worked really hard on things like footwork and that individual craft that allowed her to be able to read the flight and take contested marks and back herself in one-on-one contests.” Lange said.
The expansion of the VFLW competition in 2018 saw a great deal of change, but what has remained unchanged, is the Darebin Falcons’ ability to produce elite AFLW footballers.
“As Meg’s line coach and watching her through the pre-season, I felt like she had so much to offer this year. I’m glad that our club and our football program provided her with an opportunity to shine and grow. Her form this year has been impossible for list managers to ignore.” Chiera said.
For coach, Jane Lange, a key member of Darebin’s incredible period of sustained success, Darebin’s impact on the AFLW competition comes as no surprise.
“If you’ve got a group of people who have created a successful culture over a consistent period of time, it makes sense that other clubs probably want to find out what they know and what they can do.
We give players every opportunity to develop and we challenge them both on and off the field to improve every time they walk through our doors.” Lange said.
For McDonald, getting back on an AFLW list is only part one of the equation. The hard work really starts now. If 2018 is any indication, it’s a challenge she will readily accept – after all, that is the Darebin way.
[Photo courtesy of Gallivant Photography]